Synagogue tragedy: Coroner solicits South Africa’s support for identification of victims

Synagogoue building collapseThe Coroner investigating the collapse of a building at Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Oyetade Komolafe, has asked for the support of South Africa in identifying the bodies of its citizens.

Komolafe made the plea at the inaugural sitting of the inquest set up by the Lagos State Government to investigate the incident which occurred on September 12.

The inquest was instituted under the Lagos State Coroner’s System Law No. 7 of 2007 to establish the cause of the incident in which 115 people died.

The majority of the victims in the collapsed six-storey building were believed to be South Africans.

“The medical team and pathologists are working because the court has directed them to carry out the activities and report back.

“It is important for the South African Embassy to ensure that relatives of the victims come forward for the pathologists to get the needed samples to compare with the bodies.

“The corpses have to be properly identified and when that is done and the process completed, the bodies would be released to the South African Government.”

According to the coroner, the inquest was not a set up to indict anybody, but aimed at unravelling the cause of the incident and how to prevent its recurrence.

“We all have the same interest here as we are all Africans. What happened at the church could happen anywhere in the world.

“I want to say that this court is not adversarial. We are not here to convict anybody. We are here to find facts.

“What happened, when it happened, why it happened, how it happened and also get recommendations from interested parties in their depositions on how to prevent recurrence of what happened.”

Komolafe urged all interested parties and eye witnesses to come forward and testify in order to get to the truth of the matter.

According to him, the court will not hesitate to issue summons to witnesses who fail to appear to give evidence.

He said the court would visit the site of the collapsed building on October 16 and urged the church to provide it with its Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage capturing the incident.

In his remarks, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), counsel to the church, commiserated with the survivors, relatives of the deceased and the South African Government on behalf of his client.

“We believe strongly that we will get at the root of the matter,” Fagbemi added.

On his part, Akingbolahan Adeniran, representing the Lagos State Government, assured the court that the government would cooperate fully to ensure speedy proceedings.

The sitting was adjourned till October 24 for further hearing.